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Home inspectors can also assist in new builds

Question: My daughter is building a new house. The specifications for the new house listed by the builder for things like insulation, gravel thickness beneath the concrete, and garage size don’t mean much to my daughter.

Would a home inspector be able to review these specifications and tell her what, if any, changes ought to be made? This is so she is not disappointed with the house, once built.

Also, I notice that the house will have a piled foundation, but the specifications don’t say how deep the piles will go. Should they go down to bedrock? Thanks, Len Nealer.

Answer: Getting recommendations from a home inspector who reviews details for a new home, prior to construction, may be very helpful for inexperienced homeowners. Ensuring the Registered Home Inspector (RHI) has a construction background is essential in receiving the best advice possible.

While it is not the first thing that comes to mind when contracting with a homebuilder for construction of a new home, extra review of the house details is a great idea. Perhaps that is because most buyers have faith in their builder to deliver a high-quality product. Regardless, it is always advantageous to consult an independent third party, who is well-versed in house construction techniques, to add their input to the process. This could include an architect, structural engineer, or architectural technologist, but these professionals may not provide this service regularly for residential clients. Also, they will typically charge a fee commensurate with their professional stature, which may be fairly pricey. Another option would be to consult an RHI, who also has a background in building trades or construction. They may be able to provide input of equal value, for a lower overall fee. Also, most home inspectors are used to providing direct consultation to homebuyers within a short timeframe, so may be more available.

This may surprise many of you regular readers, but a large number of home inspectors don’t have much direct construction experience. This may even be the majority, in certain locations across the country. It may be a valid assumption that anyone who is scrutinizing a resale home prior to purchase has hands-on experience building or renovating homes, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Many good inspectors have taken excellent educational courses about homes and inspecting, which don’t require a prerequisite of having worked in a building trade. Most home inspectors approach the profession as their second or third occupation, or even higher. Many have a business background, hoping to cash in on a previously growing field.

For most typical pre-purchase home inspections, a history in building construction is not critical. There are various Standards of Practice which can be followed when completing the inspections. Once properly trained to follow these Standards, and identify visible deficiencies, many individuals can do a passable job for their clients. Because a home inspection is not technically exhaustive, due to the limited time and inability to do invasive testing, a person previously inexperienced in construction can become a competent and successful inspector. But for specialized consulting, such as advice for your daughter’s new home, they may not be properly qualified. For that reason, any home inspector hired should be quizzed on their past experience with construction, plan review, and other aspects of house construction.

Anyone who has worked as a carpenter, plumber, electrician, or other tradesperson on multiple construction sites will have a better chance at providing meaningful advice to a new home buyer, who may be ignorant in many aspects of that project. It is my experience that the best and most successful home inspectors do come from that type of background, especially those involved in the entire building process. Any individual that has spent several years, or decades, building or renovating homes will have a strong leg up on those who don’t have that direct experience. Although, I have met many intelligent and well-educated inspectors who don’t. Those who are successful in their business often stick to standard home inspections, and associated diagnostic testing, and rarely deviate to other consulting areas.

Helping your daughter decide to what depth the concrete piers should be poured, the types of siding and roofing to pick, suggestions on insulation materials, and many other variables that make up a typical build should be within the scope of any consultant’s work. Most of this should be based on experience gained in actual construction, and learned through years of inspecting hundreds of homes. Seeing common issues that occur years or decades after completion is a regular part of defect recognition in any inspection. Avoiding these pitfalls may be one of the most important aspects of the proposed advice. Often these are unknown, even to the most experienced homebuilder, as they are long gone once the issues arise. Preventing premature deterioration, especially related to moisture damage inside and outside the home, should be a key focus of any early review of the house specifications.

Advising your daughter to seek the help of an experienced RHI, who has a direct background in construction, is a wise decision. She should gain very valuable insight, as long as the inspector has the experience to back-up their recommendations.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

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